Jordie Bellaire colors Agatha Harkness

There were a couple of Marvel sequences recently that made me think “this is why I read comics.” Even though the pages are in two different series with two different artists, they are both colored by Jordie Bellaire and they both feature the white-haired witch, Agatha Harkness. In both cases, we see how a limited palette shows off what Bellaire can do–and how heavily Bellaire contributes to the integrity of the stories she works on.

Scarlet Witch #1 opens quietly with Vanesa Del Rey’s dark, scratchy lines soaking up Bellaire’s moody colors. Agatha, in ghost form, is talking with her protege Wanda.

Agatha is dry, sardonic, and all in blue gray. Her coloring matches Wanda’s sad eyes. Wanda’s red dressing gown strikes a minor chord with the magenta of the room. These rich bloody colors work with James Robinson’s dialogue to drench the panels in a feeling of privacy and the bond between two women.

In The Vision #3, we go back in time to when Agatha was alive. She and her familiar are performing a ritual to see into the future. The mood immediately shifts with time and place because the colors are so subdued after pages and pages of the Vision family’s bright green hair against their red skin. The Agatha panels start quietly enough.

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The dimmer palette accentuates Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s inking in a way the earlier pages, bulging with color, don’t. It’s a sort of nakedness. Tom King’s narration carries through the scene, moving at a different pace–on a different path–than the pictures. The boxes have been magenta all along, but  now they seem to presage Agatha’s appearance.

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As the Agatha panels turn vicious and bloody, the red/magenta juxtaposition appears again–and again it speaks to intimacy between Wanda and Agatha.

The carnage reminds us of another supernatural white-haired woman Bellaire colored: Alice in Image’s Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios.

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With a few colors, Bellaire both heightens Rios’s lines and stays out of their way. It’s one of those things that looks easy when done right–but if everybody could do it, these books wouldn’t stand out from the field as much as they do.

 

Happy Family Postscript

Yesterday I called the portrayal of the Caines in Low #1 “Happy Family Porn.” I think Remender and Tocchini did convey the ominous feeling that a very long honeymoon was about to be over. But from Remender’s own writing about the story, it seemed like he was trying to get us to care a lot about the family. And his efforts to make me care repelled me instead. Even after they weren’t happy anymore, my first impression lingered on that they were really annoying people with an unbelievable family dynamic.

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Maybe there’s a general rustiness in depicting believable happy families of origin in comics. Comics, like children’s books, seem to exact a huge amount of orphaning. When families are still intact, they tend to be evil dynasties where no one can trust each other. The best family feeling comes from teams of adult misfits who have chosen to hang together. I think there are good storytelling reasons why it tends to be that way.

Being happy with a mom and a dad is just weird even in real life. A lot of us have families that DID bust up irreparably in real life, and you know what? It wasn’t all that hunky dory before the festival of estrangement and fragmentation.

So, I wanted to highlight a couple of families I really like in recent comics titles.

Laura’s family in The Wicked and the Divine:

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They’re all kind of ignoring each other, but they’re also choosing to be physically near each other. The parents look kind of zoned out watching TV, plus they’re self-medicating with wine. But they’re sitting close together. They look comfy. So, this seems like a happy family.

Later they fight:

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But it’s ok.

Ditto for the Khans in Ms. Marvel.

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Mrs. Khan has had it with this convo. Mr. Khan’s big meaty forearm is in the air like “OK, let’s just table this guys.” But you know, everyone is fine. Mr. and Mrs. Khan are going to stay married. They’re just being strict with Kamala because they care and they’re good parents.

In both these cases, real disagreements (not cutesy snarky disagreements) are ok because these families aren’t going to fall apart. There’s no fragility…because these are, essentially, happy families. It’s not sugary sweet, but it’s real.